I Find the Whole Ivy League Thing Annoying Now: Our Son is a Junior in High School
October 11, 2021
As a quadruple graduate of Crimson University (undergraduate, medical school, residency, chief residency and fellowship – we were even premedical tutors for a decade) – it’s hard for me not to think about the same Crimson University since both Mr. Plastic Picker and I went there and our son is now a junior in high school. The annoying thing about the whole Ivy League thing is that people expect your children to go there, even if you don’t want them to go there or they don’t want to go there.
That “name” can be a trap. I remember when I was trying to figure out whether to stay in pediatric endocrine in Boston or move onto NIH to do a research year – our unit chief literally looked at me and said that I could work as an attending physician for “free” to maintain my clinical skills and work in a reserach lab for “free” since my husband was going to make plenty of money. But being a small business owner and an accountant’s daughter, I looked at her and nodded but in my mind I thought, “You are crazy! I know when I’m being used.” Work without pay? An empty title can’t feed my children. So that is when we hightailed it out of Boston, and I went onto NIH to complete my research year. They were actually paying me a normal fellow’s salary, and I had received a merit scholarship during my NIH years. I had funding. Lab directors were actually courting me. I found my way there outside the Boston bubble, and wrote two papers with my advisor there. That is the skill set that I have since used to help me in the climate and health work.
I’ve been invited back to NIH to speak about my local advocacy work and climate and health writing. That was a beautiful moment. I am truly honored.
But now my son is taking his PSATs this week, and we are trying to decide whether we should hire a college advisor and if so – who? I started to look up information yesterday and it seems pretty simple. We moved back to California specifically so that you could apply to the University of California system. And then there are the small liberal arts schools, that his father and I can afford to send him if he’d like a smaller environment that are about the same caliber. And then there are the Ivy League and other schools in the same range. UC doesn’t even require letters of recommendations or SAT scores. Now that I’ve been lucky enough to work with premedical students at UC Berkeley and UCLA and UCSD, I realize how wonderful these schools are. But as his father and I both went to school in Boston and Mr. Plastic Picker’s family lives in New York City, he wants to apply to school on the east coast.
The application isn’t that much different than it was when I applied decades ago. I’m sorry it’s not. We are not having our son game the system, and he is going along his own path that is unique to him and we are inordinately proud of him. We just want to make sure he does what he needs to do, but still learn and explore and be his authentic self.
Then he has to answer 4 out of 8 questions, which since he wants to be a writer. I think he’ll be fine.
The parts where he’ll apply to private schools isn’t that much different. Just the packaging is a bit different. He is now really just concentrating on sleeping and resting before his PSAT, and then I’ve reach out to a friend to get him some extra help in Spanish as he has elected to take AP Spanish this year. I’m really proud of him because he loves spanish, and he was language delayed at 3. Now he’s taking AP Spanish making good grades, and we want to make sure he is going to do well on the exam but more importantly stick with Spanish as it’s an important skill. He also speaks Korean and has been studying with a former Ivy-League Korean language instructor since we was young. We don’t want him to compromise on his learning and we want him to take risk, and taking AP Spanish was his risk and his reach.
So among the gardening, and trying to save the earth – I was being a normal upper middle class former Ivy League grad mother and trying to make sure I did my part for my son. Now that I’ve returned to my mentoring and advising roots, I’m very relaxed about the entire process. I know that wherever he ends up, will be about him and he needs to earn this. He needs to do this. I’m going to guide him for now, unless we can find a college advisor. They are booked solid right now. But I’ll save myself a boatload of money if no one responds to my emails.
But I did reach out to the president of the Harvard Club of San Diego, as we know eachother from years ago. Just to ask her advice about things and who she hired to be her son’s college advisor. We’ve already paid an obscene amount of money for private school, so another few thousand for someone to help keep our son on track for his applications seems like the prudent thing to do. But being the self-driven and figure-it-out kind of person, I’ve started doing research as well and I have a spreadsheet now of all the schools that he is likely going to apply to, admission rate, average GPA, average SAT (if they look at them). I’m not too worried if we can’t get the right person, as I think it’s better if we stay involved. In the end University of Edinburugh takes over 80% of qualified international applicants and University of Melbourne will take 40% of international applicants. This makes sense because they want our money, and we know our son is qualified and will do fine wherever he ends up. But that was just crazy researching last night. I don’t think we’ll end up sending him to Scotland or Australia (althought it does sound nice!). It doesn’t make sense from a carbon footprint standpoint. I think he’ll do fine in the college admissions process and either be in California at a UC or on the east coast at a small liberal arts college or an Ivy. He’ll be fine. And in the end, I told him he can always be a farmer because we have the Oregon farm!